EU observer mission says Oct 26 poll was better administered

EU observer mission says Oct 26 poll was better administeredNAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 10 – The European Union Election Observation Mission (EU EOM) Chief Observer, Marietje Schaake, Wednesday said there was an improvement in how the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) organised the October 26 presidential election.

Schaake who spoke in Brussels while releasing the mission’s final report on last year’s presidential elections – August 8 and October 26 – said the results processing framework put in place in the repeat election was more transparent.

She, however, registered the mission’s concern with what she termed as “a persistent lack of trust” in the polls body by the Opposition.

The report chronicles a number of events that eroded trust in the electoral process including the unresolved murder of IEBC’s technology chief, Chris Msando.

“The violent murder of a prominent IEBC ICT manager, Chris Msando identified dead on 31 July 2017, weighed heavily over the electoral process, and fuelled mistrust about the use of technology,” the final report with 29 recommendations reads.

The National Super Alliance’s (NASA) publication of alleged computer logs detailing what the alliance said was election interference by the Jubilee Party and the State was also cited in the report, EU EOM blaming the situation to the delayed release of the August 8 presidential election results by IEBC.

“After the General Election, NASA made claims that the displayed keyed-in results were “computer-generated”, despite the availability of paper and scanned results forms substantiating the declared results,” EU EOM states in the report.

“The EU EOM looked into logs that NASA alleged were evidence of hacking, but concluded the logs presented, as such, did not amount to evidence of hacking,” the report however notes.

The report also raises concern over the assumption of office by new IEBC commissioners barely eight months to the August 8 General Election.

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati, Vice Chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Commissioners Abdi Guliye, Margaret Mwachanya, Boya Molu, Paul Kurgat and Roselyn Akombe had according to the EU EOM report not acclimatized at the Commission.

The situation was made was by Akombe’s resignation on October 18 citing political interference in IEBC’s quest to deliver a credible election on October 26 after the Supreme Court nullified the August 8 presidential poll.

“The IEBC Commissioners’ terms then began on 18 January 2017, less than eight months before the elections. This is not consistent with international good practice or the recommendations of the Kriegler report and put excessive pressure on the IEBC.”

The polishing of the voter register by the KPMG audit firm is also mentioned in the report as an exercise that raised more questions than answers, hence the deep-rooted fears of election rigging.

KPMG using data from the Department of Civil Registration (DCR) identified 92,000 records of deceased voters on the voter register.

There were, however, fears that the number of dead persons on the voter roll could be higher even as it emerged that only about fifty per cent of deaths were registered in the country.

“Following verification, the IEBC removed 88,000 of these records, as removal of more records would have risked error, disenfranchisement, and controversy,” notes the report.

Other concerns raised in the poll observation report are intimidation by politicians from both political divides of independent institutions including the electoral agency, violence, and disruption of polls by opposition protestors, and the use of disproportionate force by security services.

Anti-IEBC protests by NASA made it difficult for the poll agency to conduct the presidential election. The October 26 election was disrupted in 27 constituencies in Nyanza which ultimately lead to an indefinite postponement.

The non-participation of the 27 constituencies was at the centre stage of two presidential petitions challenging the outcome of the election.

Unlike in the August 8 presidential election, NASA presidential candidate Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka did not petition the October 26 election.

The Supreme Court dismissed the petitions which it had jointly after consolidating them saying they lacked merit.

NASA has remained adamant since President Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing in for a second term on November 28, that it does not recognise the results of the October 26 election which it boycotted.

The decision to boycott was announced by Odinga on October 10 with the apex court saying Odinga’s withdrawal through a letter to IEBC was in order since a candidate could not be forced to participate in an election.

Since Kenyatta’s installation, the United States and other western nations have been pushing for a political ceasefire amid threats by NASA to swear in Odinga and Kalonzo as President and Deputy President of the People’s Assembly – a recently constituted forum through which NASA intends to institute changes in the executive arm of the government to promote inclusivity.

The US has however denied reports that it is seeking the establishment of a unity government following a report published in the Standard newspaper on Monday.

“Media reports that Ambassador Bob Godec asked for a unity Cabinet or pushed for a unity government are wrong,” the US embassy tweeted on Tuesday.

NASA also plans to clamour for the expansion of the structure of the executive. It is not clear yet if the alliance will be seeking a referendum to achieve constitutional amendments.

Similar attempts in the past have proven futile, the latest being the “Okoa Kenya” referendum drive in 2016 which flopped after NASA, then Coalition for Reforms a Democracy (CORD), failed to acquire a million signatures required for a referendum.

Only 891,598 signatures were verified against IEBC’s voter register at the time.

CORD blamed the failure to a biased commission, the coalition arm-twisting Jubilee alliance at the time to resolve to send home the Chairperson of the commission, Ahmed Isaack Hassan, and fellow commissioners.

A raft changes in the administration of elections were also passed in Parliament through a bipartisan initiative key among them the introduction of technology in the identification of voters and transmission of election results.

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